Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Natural England - Review of Upland Evidence

In view of my involvement with the tracks topic that forms part of this review, I thought it worthwhile providing a summary of the what is involved.  This is a rather wordier post than normal ones, but I hope it is informative.  The Natural England website has even more detail!

The key point is that I am supporting phase one only, at this stage.  This will be reviewing evidence not changing guidance or policy.  Phase 2 might be more interesting to those involved directly in management issues.

Reasons for the review:
·      An increase in scrutiny of the uplands - want to ensure stakeholder confidence
·      To make sound evidence-based decisions
·      Operate robust and transparent processes
·      Ensure compliance with environmental standards

Phase 1
This phase reviews current evidence and evidence standards including:
·      quality assurance;
·      relevance of evidence and appropriateness of analysis;
·      conclusions drawn;
·      clarity of communications and consistency of advice to customers and stakeholders.
 It will:
·      Identify and consider all relevant evidence
·      Identify gaps
·      Consider the effect of defined activities
·      Draw conclusions based on available evidence (including recommendations for future research)
It will not:
·      consider other relevant information such as socio-economic factors
·      recommend changes in management practices or operational guidance

Topics to be covered include:
·      Effects of tracks/vehicles on soil structure and hydrology, and their effects on biodiversity.
·      Effects of managed burning on peatland biodiversity and ecosystem services
·      Appropriate management regimes for sustaining biodiversity and upland hay meadows.
·      Determination of environmentally sustainable stocking regimes for moorland.
·      Feasibility of restoring degraded blanket bog including areas such as drainage, vegetation cover (peat forming species) and climate change.

Phase 2 
This phase has not yet been defined but will look at possible changes in advice provision for each of the topics,

Review Process
Evidence Review groups
·      will evaluate outputs from the evidence review, draw evidence conclusions, and summarise these.
·      Each group includes two expert  members on the topic being covered.
·      Timing: 14 September – 5 October
Assurance Review group 
·      will comprise a chair and two independent specialists who will check the soundness of  the topic reviews and their conclusions.
·      The Group will report  to the Natural England Science Advisory Committee (NESAC).
·      Timing: 5 – 26 October
Stakeholder Workshops
Natural England plans to hold a series of workshops to discuss initial findings for each topic in November 2012 and to publish a report in December.

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